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Game 7 ALCS Preview, October 23, 2023, Rangers @ Astros

It all comes down to this

Championship Series - Houston Astros v Texas Rangers - Game Three Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Know this: No matter who wins tonight, it was an ALCS for the ages.

The series is tied 3-3. The run differential is Astros, +1. The two teams had identical records in the regular season. Who can honestly say one of these teams is clearly superior to the other?

There have been nail-biters. There have been blowouts. Each team has had its gotcha moments: Altuve’s game-winning home run in Game 5 in front of the haters in Arlington, Garcia’s grand slam revenge homer in Game 6.

There was even a brawl. Could it happen today in Game 7? Is this going to be the new Boston/New York rivalry? Which team is more Texas?

And it all comes down to one game.

This could be Deja Vu all over again for Astros fans. Currently, the Astros are the only team in history to lose four home games in a playoff series. Will they do it again? Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Let’s hope rhyming means the Astros only lose three home games this time.

And who was the starting pitcher when the Astros lost the fourth home game in the 2019 World Series? Tonight’s starter for Arlington, Max Scherzer.

However, this Scherzer does not appear to be the Scherzer of old. Rather, more like an old Scherzer. (But that’s what we said in 2019.) He was on IL for weeks before this series, and in his earlier game in this series, he had an 11.25 ERA.

So, just as in 2019, everyone is asking, is this Hall of Fame Scherzer pitching tonight or an injured shadow of that pitcher?

The Astros have similar uncertainty. Although Cristian Javier has been excellent in his last four starts, including two in the playoffs, before that, since July, he pitched so poorly that many of us assumed he must be hiding an arm injury. So, which Javier shows up tonight? And how often can he get away with showing what is essentially a two-pitch repertoire to the same team within a week?

Still, I say advantage Astros for starting pitching with all the caveats above. And behind the unflappable El Reptil, the Astros have a well-rested J.P. France. He faltered at the end of the regular season, but I believe with his limited usage in the last month, he’s ready for two or three strong innings. Behind him, Hunter Brown has shown he can blow away batters with a 99 MPH fastball for one inning.

And, of course, short relief. Is Abreu available? Not known at this time. He has not been himself in this series anyway, having surrendered two runs in two innings after a scoreless streak going back to July.

On the other hand, Phil Maton has looked very solid this post-season, Neris can pitch two days in a row, and a rested Ryan Pressly proved in Game 5 that he can go two innings if necessary.

But it all comes down to one game. Anything can happen in one game. Anyone can come up big, or fail big. Who knows, the slumping Kyle Tucker might have the game-winning hit. It’s a roll of the dice.

Is road-field advantage a real thing?

Check out the game thread tonight.

Game time 7:03.

(Editor's note. MLB came to its senses and is allowing Bryan Abreu to pitch tonight)